A glimpse of world events colliding with personal life



Photograph Courtesy of news.com.au

When the Twin Towers collapsed, so did my marriage. We searched through the wreckage to salvage what we could but so much had been lost that it seemed best to build new structures, individually:

The attack on the towers happened swiftly in one agonizing day but a lot led up to that day. In the beginning, the terrorists had built a kind of trust with the US. Somewhere along the line, that trust became stilted. Some things started to divide the two groups. Cultural, religious and political differences caused 9/11. Extremists channeled feelings and attitudes they carried with them over time into a concentrated force that powerballed and exploded with their combined plan.

It wasn’t quite that way in my marriage. My Egyptian husband and I started out united, one tower, one strength. He opposed the highest leader in the Egyptian army as he fought for the right to marry me, a foreigner. He faced prison, retaliation to family, and his father’s wrath, all because he loved me without reserve.

We both grew up with strong shared values that esteemed family,  kindness, respect, humility and a desire to please each other and others. Though we had faced obstacles before we settled down to live in the Middle East as a married couple, we established our dream of doing so. We believed our values would look past our mixed-faith marriage and the differences in our cultural and political upbringing would be manageable.

Me pregnant with the twins - about 3 months

For us, the situations leading up to our personal 9/11 twin towers collapse included all of those aspects. Our marriage was hijacked by those differences. In our first year of marriage, I became pregnant with twins!

Though twins didn’t run in our families, we felt it was a reward for our long wait to start our lives together. A blessing.

Five months into my twin pregnancy, I faced a life-threatening condition called “pre-eclampsia,” and was immediately hospitalized. It  went from moderate to an alarming “severe” level in a number of hours. In the course of my six-week hospital stay, I lost both babies , the latter which was born in the 25th week.

The loss, and all we went through, was very public in our small expatriate community and we handled it completely differently. Probably for both of us, but definitely for me, the word “twin” carried a heaviness, an anguish with it.

Our marriage began to go through some major upheaval. Cultural and religious differences prevented us from sharing our grief as we should have-as I wanted to. We couldn’t relate in the same way. It was probably then that we started secretly amassing (stockpiling?) our individual missiles against each other.  While we tried to live up to individual expectations and work through the problems, I became pregnant again. This time I lost the baby in the third month. It seemed I was unable to give him a child.

In the summer of 2001, we took our first separate vacation.I headed for Scotland and my husband, who had always talked about living in California when we left the Middle East, visited that state. Originally, he planned to travel with a Lebanese friend but that fell through at the last minute. So he went alone. And had a frightening, terrible time.

When he returned to our home in the United Arab Emirates, he gave me an ultimatum. If our marriage was to survive, we would have to stay in the Middle East without ever living in America. He didn’t want to raise our children in America, if I ever could give him a child, that is. We grew further apart as I sought to make the choice he wanted. Could I live away from my family forever? I said, “Yes,” and hoped I could.

On September 11, 2001, the planes flew into the Twin Towers and they collapsed. It was evening where we were when it happened. My husband calmly walked into my office and told me. I ran to the television to watch the disaster unfold. The man I married, one I felt was compassionate to the core, seemed hard and unfeeling. He said it was my government’s fault.

The days that followed were filled with more recriminations. His friends came to  our house and they all seemed critical of America’s response to the situation. Talks centered on unfair treatment of Arabs in the United States. Because of the negativity,  my own defensiveness and my husband’s inability to empathize with what happened in New York City, we had our own huge collapse.

When I see footage of the dazed workers standing in the dust-filled rubble of Ground Zero from 9/11, it always makes me think of myself, just as dazed, standing in the ruins of my own life. I couldn’t find my husband there. I searched and searched but the man I knew and loved had disappeared. I found someone who looked like him but this man couldn’t have been him. He was angry, accusing, disrespectful and unkind to my feelings about the people and country I valued. That came on top of perhaps, his disappointment that I could not seem to a bear him a child.

The loss of our twins collapsed our first tower, and the terrorists effectively demolished our second.

Like so many others, 9/11 brings a sense of futile loss.

It didn’t have to happen.

While I, like most of the country, will never forget what happened,  the good news is that I moved on from Ground Zero. God ministered to me during my personal collapses and taught me valuable lessons; my faith now consists of stronger girding and I no longer fear collapse.

Twin Collapses
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22 thoughts on “Twin Collapses

  • September 12, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Wow Amy! What losses! To have not one or two losses, but three, even four that affected and impacted your life deeply all within a short time. I was a twin for about a day give or take, though still consider myself one, and that had huge ramifications on my life. So I can only imagine that bearing twins and losing them must have been so devastating and especially without the support you required. I am glad you were able to, albeit in time, get the support you required.

  • September 12, 2014 at 4:12 am

    You courage, Amy, is magnetic. You have deeper sight and sharper focus than so many of us who are not vision-challenged and are an inspiration. THANK YOU 🙂

    Your courage Amy is not just in dealing with the hardships you have faced; not even in getting up, brushing off your knees and starting over, but in sharing your personal story with others in your simple way with no self-pity, accusations or even the most common victim question,”Why me?”

    Thank you again for the reminder to be grateful for our blessings. HUGS <3

  • September 12, 2014 at 6:22 am

    I am so inspired by your experience. The world will never forget that day.

  • September 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    What a beautiful, encouraging comment!!! I am so humbled.
    Thank you for for taking time out to read my post and thinking of me.

  • September 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Manu–the world will not forget, that’s for sure!
    Thank you for your kind words. Come back and read some more!

  • September 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Good morning, Elly.
    Thank you for your thoughtful compassion. When I went to a writer’s conference, the agent said, “The common theme running through your book ideas is loss. You should write about how you cope/coped. There will be a bigger market there.” (He didn’t seem too interested in my travel stories).
    Was your twin sibling a girl or boy? I’m sorry for your loss, even more so that it had huge ramifications on your life. Is this topic included in your partial memoir that you mentioned?
    Take care!

  • September 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Amy, you have written this story with such grace and courage – I really want to thank you for sharing such a deeply intimate and traumatic experience with your true voice of love and compassion. Beautiful that you also shared your pregnancy photo, your twins and the knowledge of their brief existence can go on in all our hearts. Blessings…

  • September 13, 2014 at 3:01 am

    You are going to write a powerful memoir. What a powerful and inspirational memory. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • September 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Wow! Amy, I had now idea about what you had been through! Your piece is extremely well written, and touching. It brought tears to my eyes! I will definitely show it to Patricia.

  • September 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you so much, David! Please do share it with her.
    It would be wonderful to meet up again! We would have so much to talk about. 🙂
    Take care, my friends.
    Amy xx

  • September 14, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Found my way here b/c of a 9/11 keyword. Your experience is tragic. But to compare to the tragedy of 9/11 victims is a little extreme, don’t you think? And it’s a little much to push the comparison with war (“stockpiling missles”) in a case like yours. Nice slice of life but could be taken as insensitive to real defenseless victims of a true American tragedy who had no idea these extremists would attack in such a cowardly way. Sorry for your loss. And God Bless America.

  • September 14, 2014 at 1:57 am

    So glad you visited my blog through my 9/11 keyword! You obviously had different expectations about what you thought you’d find, but that’s all right. Although we differ in our vantage points, we share some of the same grief. Everyone responded to 9/11 differently – through their own lens. This was my experience and, of course, my blog. Thank you for taking time to voice your opinion on this sensitive subject.

  • September 14, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Right. You shouldn’t have to go on the defensive if it’s your blog. We shouldn’t have to defend ourselves for what we write. And I love how you compare your husband to the terrorists building trust with you at first and then seeing his true anti-American colors later. But I do see Green’s point about the comparison maybe going just a little overboard here. Just might not have to “push” it so much if it doesn’t really work right from the start. And I lost track of what your “towers” were. Were they your love or your marriage? Or your twins? Or each twin separately lost one at a time? And how you actually lost them? Because you said one was born? So the other was not born? Just a little confused there. But I understand you are still very emotional about this even after so many years when you think back about it. But very tragic situation you experienced and to discover your evil husband was a terrorist must have made you feel like your whole life was a failure. So glad you are okay and back safely in the States where you belong!!! God is GOOD!!!

  • September 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    That post is probably the first draft of an article. Excellent questions for me to think about, especially about what “our towers” represented. On our 20th week check-up, we found our first twin had died. Two days later, I went to the hospital to receive written permission to travel to the States to have the second twin. That’s when they found the pre-eclampsia and rushed me into a room. I was transferred to a second hospital with a dialysis machine for another 5 weeks. The second twin was born there but lived only 8 days. I saw her just once. My ex-husband wasn’t quite that bad but he certainly didn’t empathize, respect me or the American government. He lost his passport in California. He was alone and didn’t know what to do. I think that whole situation colored his impression of life in and the government of the United States. Thank you so much for reading, connecting and commenting.

  • September 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    What an powerful post. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing this experience with us.

  • September 16, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Thank you for taking time out to read about such a personal experience in my life in light of a national tragedy, and for encouraging me through your comment.

  • September 16, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Hello my friend.
    Wow…I have no words other than what had already been shard with you, but I would like to say…thank you for sharing your experience with us. It takes a kind and loving soul to share such things, bless you. I always love reading your blog.

  • September 16, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you so much.
    I love having you visit my blog.

  • September 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    What can I say? What a powerful piece! I find pain in your past and hope in your future. You are an incredible woman and a wonderful writer.

  • September 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much! I was hesitant to write my story out. But I’m so glad I did! It feels good to give a voice to what happened–and I do share a solidarity with those who lost someone on 9/11, even it wasn’t in the same way.

  • September 19, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Maribel, you always have such encouraging words to say! And so glad you commented on the pregnancy photo. I took so few that it really is a precious photo! xx Thank you for taking time to read this story.

  • September 19, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Thank you so much, Alana, for infusing me with courage to write more personal stories.

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